When did ‘get the look’ become such a ubiquitous phrase? The kind that no fash mag worth its salt would be complete without: budget versions of high-end designs presented neatly with price tags alongside. The original? £600. The near-copy? £45. Somehow through the proximity of the two amounts, the latter always looks that much more reasonable (even if actually £45 is a lot for a synthetic shirt with uneven seams).
Of course, much of the high street makes its money from encouraging you to get ‘the look’. Fashion’s whirling, flashing rounds of trends rely on people wanting to emulate a particular item or set of references for six or so months before moving on. One season: everything seventies. Another: flat shoes (seriously? Who thinks of flat shoes as moving ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the zone of popularity? No one. No one whatsoever. Not even fashion editors who write about it). Stretch it further and you get companies like MissGuided and Boohoo, whose success primarily relies on being able to copy whatever Kim K has been seen in very quickly, very cheaply, with just enough design difference to not infringe copyright.
Not all of this is bad, of course (beyond all the obvious stuff about the ethics of production). Why should only those with plentiful bank accounts have access to bang-up-to-date designs, especially if they absolutely love them – rather than feeling impelled towards them because they’re current and hot and all sorts of other words implying fleeting desirability?
It’s also not entirely new. My grandma once told me about paying a seamstress to make a replica of that feted Mondrian dress by YSL. Sadly, it’s one of the few items of hers I haven’t inherited (she gave it to her mother later in life, and it eventually ended up being donated to a costume department of a theatre in the States). I guess the difference was that, back then, you had to make a very active decision on what you wished to emulate – and then do it yourself, or find someone else capable of whipping up your budget dreams.
It can also be great fun. I used to spend a lot of time trying to work out how to do charity shop versions of Christopher Kane and Burberry. I still take pride, on occasion, in whipping up a version of something from the catwalk, usually for less than 20 quid.
Given all of that, here’s my latest offering: a skirt that, at a glance, could perhaps just pass muster as Gucci. You know the one: the metallic pleats seen on everyone from Alexa Chung to endless fashion bloggers. Its provenance? My childhood dressing up box. Its price? 30p, I believe. My mum originally bought it from a jumble sale. As a kid it became a pleated cloak, a pirate’s skirt, a hoard of gold all of its own. I wore it for serious dressing up duties. It has also figured on this blog once before, worn to temporarily transform me into an autumn queen surrounded by windfall apples.
It was also my mum who pointed out its almost mirror-similarity to Alessandro Michele’s AW15 design. Near-identical. Though mine, admittedly, has a very crudely elasticated waist (literally a piece of elastic tacked to the inside and reinforced with safety pins). Every time I’ve worn it though, I’ve felt wonderful: striding around in all my shiny, swooping brilliance. It’s also garnered a fair few compliments from strangers (that ultimate litmus test of how excellent/ audacious something is). So I guess I have Gucci to thank. Without that gold lame skirt shimmering its way along a runway, I might have left this languishing in the dressing up box for a whole lot longer…
The particular styling here was chosen to replicate Alexa’s look (seen here): complete with a rainbow-patterned jumper and some black shoes, both from charity shops. I should have braved it with bare legs, but my mum took these pictures a few months ago when it was still awfully freezing…
I’ve been rather quiet this month. I had a dissertation to hand in, and various other projects that took up time. However, I’ve been busy scattering words elsewhere. In the last few weeks I’ve had this published on Broadly about the subversive history of women using thread as ink, and this on Collectively celebrating the ace young women making the online world their oyster.